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Guide to Being 20 Weeks Pregnant

Pregnancy Image Gallery Do you want to know the sex of your baby? Around week 20, your doctor can tell you. See more pregnancy pictures.
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Congratulations, the first half of your pregnancy is complete! Week 20 might not be a major one in terms of physical changes, but it can feel like a significant mental milestone. Being in the twenties sounds so much better than being in the teens, doesn't it? Another exciting event that could happen this week -- if you want it to happen, of course -- is finding out your baby's sex. Also, at this point, your baby's heartbeat might be strong enough that your care provider only needs a stethoscope to hear it. And maybe you've felt those first tiny kicks and punches (they're so cute and thrilling right now, but trust us, they'll get stronger and perhaps a little less cute in a few weeks).

In week 20, you're officially starting on the downhill side of the second trimester, which means you should still be feeling pretty good. You most definitely look pregnant and might feel gigantic, but you're not huge just yet, and your energy level is probably still high. You're most likely in full-on maternity wear now (and probably have been for a while if this isn't your first child), but you haven't reached the point where you're bumping into things with your enormous belly. Take advantage of this relatively easy time in your pregnancy -- exercise, get your sleep, eat well and remember to remind your partner to pamper you.

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If you're lucky, week 20 just feels like more of the same. If you've been plagued by heartburn, you're probably used to dealing with by now, keeping a supply of antacids in your purse to extinguish any flare-ups. If you're prone to swelling, you're used to combating it by taking occasional strolls around the office or your home. But there are a couple of uncomfortable pregnancy side effects that might be just starting to rear their heads right about now:

  • About one in 100 pregnant women develops asthma, so tell your doctor or midwife if you ever have difficulty breathing -- including coughing, wheezing and trouble taking deep breaths. You're more at risk for pregnancy-induced asthma if you're short or overweight.
  • Many pregnant women experience night sweating. If you're suffering with this distinctly unpleasant phenomenon, all you can really do is wear as little as possible to bed and try to keep your room cool. Breathable cotton sleepwear (as opposed to synthetics) can be helpful, too.
  • Your risk of bladder infections is increasing because your uterus is compressing the tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder, and your urinary tract muscles are relaxed. Bladder infections are sometimes hard to diagnose because one symptom is a constant need to urinate, which, we're sure you're aware, is a basic fact of life when you're pregnant.

But enough about you -- what's going on with your little guy or gal this week?

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At week 20, your baby's length is about 6.5 inches (16.5 centimeters) from crown to rump (starting next week, measurements will be crown to heel). Your baby weighs about 10 ounces, and sticky white stuff is still covering your baby's skin.

Your stomach is now growing at about a centimeter a week, and the top of your uterus is approximately level with your belly button. Your baby's genitals are fully formed by this week, which makes it the perfect time to find out the sex, if you want to. He or she is also beginning to swallow, which you might even be able to witness it if you get an ultrasound. The development of swallowing means that your baby is ingesting some of the stuff that's floating around in the womb, which your baby's body will turn into meconium. This nearly tarlike, dark greenish-black substance will make up your baby's first few bowel movements (don't be shocked when you see that in a diaper!).

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Around 20 weeks, your care provider may be able to hear your baby's heartbeat without having to squirt that gel on your belly. A DeLee fetal stethoscope can now do the job. Soon enough, family and friends might be able to hear the heartbeat just by putting their ears to your belly. On the next page, we'll talk more about this development and some other pointers for you and your partner.

For the past few months, you've been communicating -- in your own way -- with your baby. It's definitely not your normal, run-of-the-mill brand of communication, but still. There's a living being inside your body, and on some level, you're continuously bonding with it. It's understandable, then, that your partner might be feeling a little out of the loop. All he or she can do is pat your belly (and cater to your every need), and there's not a lot of direct interaction with the growing baby.

That all begins to change around this point in the pregnancy. As we mentioned on the last page, the doctor can now hear the baby's heartbeat more easily, and pretty soon your partner will be able to hear it, too. For now, go ahead and try out a stethoscope, but in a matter of time, all your partner will need to do is put an ear to your belly.

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And the listening goes both ways, now that your baby's hearing is almost fully developed. The little bundle of joy will finally be able to hear all those songs and googly noises you've been serenading him or her with. So tell your partner to let it all out -- read the sports page, tell stories, play the guitar, whatever he or she wants to do to bond with the baby.

So what else do you need to keep in mind as you enter the second half of your pregnancy? Find out on the next page.

Good posture can help minimize lower back pain during pregnancy.
Good posture can help minimize lower back pain during pregnancy.
©iStockphoto.com/Mark Bowden

Some women are very focused on their birth plan from day one of the pregnancy: They know exactly how they want things to go, down to the timing of the epidural (or refusal of one), the music playlist and the pajamas they're going to wear to greet visitors. But don't worry if you haven't given much thought to the actual birth process just yet -- even if you're hazy on birth-plan details, you probably have some ideas. How do you feel about pain medication? Who's going to be with you during the labor and delivery? Just start mentally tossing things around with your partner and jot down your thoughts in a journal. It's never too early for some positive thinking!

Also, now's the time to think about scheduling childbirth classes, if you haven't already. You might not actually attend the classes for a few weeks, but you don't want to find out too late that there are no spaces or convenient times left.

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And finally, chances are you've been experiencing some lower back pain -- it's pretty much inescapable the bigger you get -- so try to be aware of your posture at all times. If you're standing, keep your knees slightly bent, your butt tucked in, and your shoulders dropped naturally (it sounds awkward, but it works). When you're sitting, try not to cross your legs. Keep your feet flat on the floor or on a footstool.

That's probably enough additions to your already-long to-do list. Is there anything you should NOT concern yourself with right now? Find out on the next page.

We've mentioned it before, but this issue always seems to be pretty high on every pregnant woman's worry list, so we'll mention it again. Yes, there are general guidelines for weight gain, and by this point you should have gained an average of 8 to 10 pounds (3.6 to 4.5 kilograms). But unless your doctor has specifically warned you that you're packing on too much (or not enough) weight, forget about it. If you're within a few pounds of these guidelines, you can probably rest easy. Eat sensibly, exercise when you can, and then put your feet up and eat a few bonbons every once in awhile. You deserve it.

On the previous page, we suggested some preliminary birth preparations, but we're also going to tell you not to stress if you don't end up with an official birth plan. Yes, it does help to be mentally prepared and focused, but remember that writing it down doesn't mean it's actually going to happen. You have to be prepared to just go with the flow, too. And even if you have no plan at all, you're still going to end up with a baby, one way or another -- the details will be minor.

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For information on what to expect during your pregnancy, take a look at the next page.

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Sources

  • American Pregnancy Association. "20th week of Pregnancy." (May 24, 2011) http://www.americanpregnancy.org/weekbyweek/week20.htm
  • Ask Dr. Sears. "Pregnancy and Posture." (May 26, 2011)http://www.askdrsears.com/html/1/T011307.asp
  • Baby Center. "22 Surprising Facts about Birth in the United States." (May 26, 2011)http://www.babycenter.com/0_22-surprising-facts-about-birth-in-the-united-states_1372273.bc
  • Baby Center. "Urinary Tract Infections During Pregnancy." (May 24, 2011)http://www.babycenter.com/0_urinary-tract-infections-during-pregnancy_9403.bc
  • Baby Center. "Your Pregnancy: 20 Weeks." (May 24, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/6_your-pregnancy-20-weeks_1099.bc
  • iVillage. "20 Weeks Pregnant: Pregnancy Week-by-Week Guide." Sept. 11, 2007. (May 24, 2011)http://www.ivillage.com/you-are-20-weeks-pregnant/6-c-124915
  • Kids Health. "Pregnancy Calendar: Week 20." (May 24, 2011)http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/pregnancy_calendar/week20.html
  • Parenting. "2nd Trimester: Week 20." (May 24, 2011)http://www.parenting.com/pregnancy/timeline/second-trimester-week-20
  • WebMD. "Your Pregnancy Week by Week: Weeks 17-20." (May 24, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-17-20
  • What to Expect. "Week 20 of Pregnancy." (May 24, 2011)http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-20.aspx

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